Wiggins leads Stanford to title game

April 6, 2008 6:30:04 PM PDT
Kayla Pedersen, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, hit all the big shots from every spot on the floor and grabbed the key rebounds to keep Stanford in it. Then Candice Wiggins found her groove, and led her team into the national title game.

Wiggins has willed Stanford so many times this season, with her gutsy and emotional play carrying the Cardinal back to the Final Four after a 10-year absence.

On her biggest stage yet, it took a while for Wiggins to warm up in her team's 82-73 victory over Connecticut on Sunday. The win sent Stanford into Tuesday night's championship game against LSU or Tennessee.

Pedersen certainly took the pressure off the superstar senior -- and slow-starting 6-foot-4 center Jayne Appel, too.

Wiggins, whose 28-point scoring average coming in led the NCAA tournament, wound up with 25 points on 7-for-19 shooting, 13 rebounds and 5 assists in the Cardinal's 23rd straight victory -- which avenged a 12-point loss to the Huskies earlier this season.

But the Pac-10's career scoring leader hardly looked like the dominant player she was in the Spokane Regional final against Maryland last Monday night, when she had 41 points for her second 40-point performance during this special run.

She tossed up an airball and committed a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers.

Pedersen was the most consistent player on the court, scoring 17 points to go with 7 rebounds while showing the women's basketball world that Stanford should be just fine when Wiggins leaves.

Now the Cardinal (35-3) will try to capture the first championship crown for a West Coast team since they won it all in 1992. Wiggins' history-making final season will finish exactly where she's long wanted it to -- playing for a national title. Then, come Wednesday, the All-American guard surely will be a top-five selection in the WNBA draft.

After the final buzzer, Wiggins greeted her teammates at midcourt then ran toward the Cardinal's fan section and yelled, "One more game! One more game!" while pointing her hand in the air with a No. 1 sign.

After UConn pulled within 47-46 on a basket by Tina Charles with 14:10 to play, Wiggins hit back-to-back 3-pointers from nearly the same spot on the right baseline and threw her arm up in celebration -- and probably relief -- after the second one went down.

She converted a three-point play with 5:24 to go, leaping in joy after scoring and getting fouled.

After winning the Wade Trophy player of the year award Saturday, Wiggins said she is most happy to be sharing this experience with her teammates. She had to be thrilled to see so many of her teammates make clutch contributions against UConn, which beat the Cardinal 66-54 on Nov. 22 in the Virgin Islands.


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